Overheard in the Dispensary: Patient-Staff Communication Breakdowns and Fixes

By Mark Hinton

Train your optical dispensary staff to hear patients clearly—and to respond to common questions with positive responses that help to serve needs and drive sales.

Your optical dispensary personnel are generally well-intentioned, but they sometimes lack professional sales training. This can lead to patient confusion and distrust, leading to lost revenue and patient exit without purchase. How would your optical staff handle the following conversations? I have provided my advice on how to handle these conversations to encourage a positive patient experience and generate excitement to make a purchase.

Customerservicebreaks down (and valuablesales are lost) becauseopticaldispensary stafffail tolisten to patientquestionsand tophraseresponses in a positiveand effective manner. Correcting this is asimple matter of providing training andconducting roleplays with your opticalstaff. Here are some examples of servicemiscommunication–andhow to turnthese breakdowns into positive experiences.

Prescription Request

Patient: “Can I get a copy of my prescription?”
Poor staff response: “Sure I’ll get you a copy, but can you tell me what it is that you’re wanting to know?”

Why response doesn’t work: Once they hear “Sure,” they’re outta there! You already had your chance. Game over. They want their prescription. Why do they want their prescription? You may think it’s because they’re cheap. They’re not–they’re confused. No one gave them a good reason to buy, so the default is price.

Solution: You need a planned and rehearsed strategy and system to engage the consumer when he or she asks this question. You need a competitive “Red Hot Value Package”:

Staffer: “Are you considering having your glasses made elsewhere?”

Patient: “Yes”

Staffer: “Would you help me by sharing what we are missing for you?”

Patient: “You’re too expensive!”

Staffer: “Others just like you thought the same. Would it surprise you that we’re competitive, and even more importantly, we use the absolute most current lens technologies and assure you they’re precision perfect? Do you think it makes sense for me to make this decision simple and easy for you, right now, without confusion?”

Spending Only What Insurance Covers
“Ijust want what my insurance covers.”

Poor staff response: “OK, I have frames that fall under your allowance.”

Why response doesn’t work: Why do they want what their insurance “allows?” It’s a vision plan–not insurance–which contributes to the payment of their eyecare and eyewear. Don’t use the word “allowance” because it has a negative connotation. When you were a kid you got an allowance and when it was gone, you didn’t get more until next time.

Solution: “I want to exceed your expectations without confusion and get you happy. Have you used your vision plan in the past and felt like you paid too much beyond what the plan contributed?”

Patient: “Yes”

Staffer: “Others just like you felt the same way! Before I provide you with choices, so you can make decisions that you’ll feel happy with, would you help me understand how you plan to use your glasses? I will then be able to plug your needs into your insurance plan. Sound good to you?”

Putting New Lens Into Existing Frame
“I want to put the new prescription into my existing frame.”
Poor staff response: “Well, let me check it over and see if it’s in good enough condition to do that.”

Why response doesn’t work: This leads to a one-sided conversation steeped in distrust.

Solution: Be concerned about the things your consumer hasn’t considered: “I could do that for you. Before I do, I have a concern, and I wonder if you share the same concern?”

Including your consumer in “the concern” puts them in control of making the crucial decision andit gets their attention. You need their trust and attention:

“If you get a week, a month or three months down the line and your frame breaks, you’d have to buy a new frame andyou’d have to buy your lenses all over again, too. Most people tell me they didn’t think of that. That’s my concern for you. It’s a risk that happens more often than you might imagine. So, would it make sense for you to keep these as your most current spare and make your new lenses in a new frame so you’ll have the warranty on both?”

Patient: “Couldn’t I just buy a new frame if mine breaks?”

Staffer: “I wish! More often, your frame may become discontinued to make room for a new and current fashion. Finding another frame other than the frame your lens is measured and made for is like fitting a random key into a random lock. Occasionally it works; more often it doesn’t. In the event it doesn’t, you’ll buy a new frame and you’ll re-buy new lenses. That’s my concern for you. Does that make sense?”

Transitions versus Sunwear
“Can I wear the Transitions lenses instead of sunglasses?”

Poor Staff Response: “NO, Transitions won’t replace sunglasses….”

Why response doesn’t work: Once the consumer hears “NO” they stop listening. This question does notsuggest a “NO” answer.

Solution: The answer should sidestep the “NO.” Always acknowledge first: “Transitions are the lenses you’ll appreciate when your sunglasses aren’t practical and here’s why: They eliminate glare we encounter everyday that clear-only lenses can’t eliminate, so you’ll react faster and perform at a higher level day and night with sharp, clear and vivid sight!”

Next, check in to see if you and the patient are on the same page: “Is this what you’d want and expect, too?”

Key Elements to Better Manage Patient-Staff Conversations

Include these five elements in your patient conversations


2) Including the consumer in the process

3) Asking questions

4) Providing evidence and benefits

5) Checking in for understanding

Schedule time out of production, with doors closed and locked, to role-play your practice’s version of these conversations and then refine the message.

Practice the doctor/patient hand-off to optical where the patient will become a consumer.

Teach staff how to develop a relationship with patients first and then help them buy.

Make it a fun and genuine consumer shopping experience in the retail optical environment.

The doctor sets the stage and pre-sets the sale in the exam room. Create a storyboard of how this should happen .

Now schedule the time and start writing and practicing your new communication. If it works, terrific. If not, refine it or get help.

Related ROB Articles
Encourage Patients to Choose New Frames with Lens Updates

Frame Board Profitability Requires Hands-On Management

Use Display Trays to Highlight Frames Options

Mark Hinton is a facilitator, product knowledge expert and dialog coach with eYeFacilitate Inc.Tocontact

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